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Women of Sundance: The Foxy Merkins

The Foxy Merkins team (Photo by Danielle Lurie)

Interview with The Foxy Merkins D.P. Anna Stypko

Filmmaker: Why this movie?  Why did you decide to do it?

Stypko: I saw Madeleine’s first movie (Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same) and loved it. I had never d.p.’d a feature before, so getting to work with a director I like and trust was a big part of it. When she told me it was about lesbian hookers who pick up Republican ladies, I knew it was going to be funny and bold – the idea of creating this whole fictitious world and getting to reference all these great male hustler movies while doing it was exciting to me.

I had worked with Laura before; we’re both in the grad film program at NYU, and she recommended me to Madeleine. Since this was a very “run and gun,” small-scale shoot, they didn’t want a d.p. who would complain about not having enough lights or fancy gear. I had shot a lot of doc-style/vérité stuff before, where I had to find shots the day of, there wasn’t much time for preparation, and it forced me to become very adaptable, think on my feet and make it look good despite limitations. This worked well since Merkins was largely improvised. I also think Madeleine wanted to work with someone who wasn’t only concerned with making things look beautiful, but who understood the humor well and was able to contribute to the comedy visually.

Filmmaker: How much of your crew was female?  Was hiring women a consideration for you?

Stypko: Hiring women wasn’t a consideration for me, although it worked out that something like 90% of our crew was female.

Filmmaker: What did you shoot on?

Stypko: The film was shot on a Canon 7D. The fact it’s small, lightweight, and can easily be concealed was a major factor in choosing this camera. As opposed to the the Panasonic HPX 170 which is what Codependent was shot on, the DSLR allowed us to achieve a more cinematic look without the cost of shooting on film. We could also use interchangeable lenses with wider aperture settings. Although a lot of the reasons for shooting on a 7D were practical, conceptually, it really felt right for the story.

Filmmaker: Do you think a male director might have handled the making of this film differently?  How did being a female filmmaker effect how this film got made do you think?

Stypko: I haven’t felt a difference either way.

Filmmaker: In what ways do you think being a female filmmaker/actress has helped or impeded your trajectory in the film industry?

Stypko: I’m not sure how to do that. I know lots of women making movies!

Filmmaker: Of the big blockbuster movies out there, which do you wish you had directed?

Stypko: Inside Llewyn Davis and All is Lost are both brilliant, but cinematographically, Gravity is so beyond my comprehension that I wish I had shot it just so I would know how they did that (how they got inside that helmet!)

Filmmaker: What’s next?

Stypko: I’m writing my first feature and hope to shoot it later this year.

Filmmaker: Considering this article will be released at Sundance: A) What do you hope to gain from being at the festival?  and B) Who would be your dream person to meet while there?

Stypko: A) I’m hoping to meet other filmmakers and see all the great movies B) Mark Ruffalo, Lance Acord, Gaby Hoffman and of course, Robert Redford.

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